Singing up a storm as 50 people compete

Singing up a storm as 50 people compete

Sharida Rejon

Martin Chang, Editor in Chief

By Martin Chang

Editor in Chief


From confidence building and making friends to expressing yourself, the contestants at Prime Cut restaurant’s annual karaoke competition all get something different from their performances.

Over the month of March, 50 aspiring singers competed in the yearly karaoke competition at The Prime Cut restaurant. It all lead up to the finals on March 22, where contestants competed for bragging rights and prizes. In the competition, there is a winner and a runner-up and each singer is judged by a panel of five judges.

Jennifer Villagran, a 24-year-old hairdresser at Valley Plaza, won the runner up prize. For her, karaoke is a way to build confidence and get back to a lifelong passion.

Villagran has been a musician her whole life. She started singing at age 2 and had her first piano lesson at age 5. As she grew up, she became more serious by competing around town, singing in gigs and in local theaters. But at age 17 she faced a major set back.

“At 17 I lost my voice,” Villagran said. “I had an inflamed vocal chord. I was doing musical theater. I was really involved, but then it just came to a halt.  It was really hard going from belting Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey songs to not being able to whisper a song.”

After about five years, her voice began to recover and was encouraged by friends to compete in karaoke and sing again.  At first she was nervous to come back to singing.

“I was really shy at first and super shaky because I wasn’t sure what my voice was going to do,” Villagran said. “If I was going to have a good night or a bad night, if I was going to crack, or if I wasn’t going to crack. Being in front of people again, it was hard.”

Yet after getting through those initial nerves, Villagran found confidence on the karaoke stage.

“[On stage I was] opening up and exercising more,” she said. “It gave me a little bit more confidence back I think.”

Villagran really enjoys the laid-back nature of karaoke.

“I’m a karaoke junkie,” she said. “The thing I like about karaoke is that it’s just for fun. Everybody is here to just have a good time. It’s a good stress relief, everyone sings in the car, in the shower. It’s how you express yourself. Being able to do it in front of a group of people and no one really caring if you suck or if you’re great. I love it.”

Villagran was surprised to win runner-up since she had forgotten about the competition and had to rush over to the restaurant.

“My friends and I were going to come for fun but they were going somewhere else because they had finals,” she said.

That’s when she realized she had to get over there quick.

“So I got here and picked a song really fast because I had no clue it was tonight,” she said. “I was surprised to win. I thought I was going to lose flat on my face.”

Maria Garcia, a preschool teacher, first got into karaoke as a way of bonding with her sister, Marina.

“Me and my sister started out just hanging out doing karaoke,” Garcia said. “We used to sneak off and do it. Nobody really knew. I thought ‘let’s pretend we have a class this semester,’

so she would leave her household and I would leave mine. We really didn’t have classes. We would just karaoke together, that was how we got our sister time.”

Often times their bonding became competitive.

“We were doing a Carrie Underwood competition for tickets, and I beat her,” she said. “I didn’t care about the tickets; I was just doing it because I wanted to beat my sister. Afterwards she said ‘wow you cheated,’ then I said ‘no sweetie I beat you.’ I even gave the tickets away to my aunt.”

Garcia tries to sing karaoke every week. She often sees the same people at competitions and enjoys the friendship and camaraderie with the other singers.

“We know each other, because we are probably at every karaoke place in town,” Garcia said. “Everyone has their song that they sing and sometimes we do duets together. I think it’s cool. It’s always fun to socialize. It’s a little karaoke world we have. I thought Jen did incredible and I’m not easily impressed.”

Garcia got sick before the finals, so she had lost her voice. She still had fun and made the most of the night singing Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven.”

“I was not confident at all, but it was fun and people showed up,” she said. “I love that Bruno Mars song. When I first heard the song, I listened to it for a day on repeat. I planned on just having fun singing it.”

Willfredo Cruz, a CSUB graduate that works in insurance, won first place that night with his version of “Killing me Softly.” He explained why he picked that song.

“It has a lot of emotion in it,” Cruz said. “It’s a really popular song and everybody can relate to it.”

Cruz puts that emotion into the words that he sings.

“When I sing, I let it all out,” he said. “It’s emotion pent up. You just want to get yourself out there. People come up after you sing and say ‘I feel that. I relate to that. It gave me goose bumps.’”